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MEOW Ep. 26 - Norman Mailer's Truth and Being: A Paean to Excrement and the Spirit of Meow


This podcast is a presentation of The Meow Library.

Today, we present your cat with selections from Norman Mailer's "Truth and Being: Nothing and Time," first collected in The Short Fiction of Norman Mailer (1967). Many consider this to be his finest (e)sc(h)atological work.

An English-language transcript follows:


[It] was left for me to return to the rootless disordered mind of our Twentieth Century to the kiss sub cauda and the Weltanschauung of the Medieval witch. The kiss sub cauda: if I had not come to recognize over the years of my career that nobility of form and aristocracy of manner are the last hope of man, I would not explain that sub cauda means beneath the tail, the hole in the highness of the cat, the place the witch would kiss when out she voyaged to visit the Demon (or is it in?), cats being classified by Medieval logic as the trinity of the Devil shaped into One. It is characteristic of revolutionaries, passionate lovers, the very ambitious, the greedy, the stingy, and dogs, to fix on what is excreted by others; it is typical of Narcissists, children, nuns, spinsters, misers, bankers, conservative statesmen, dictators, compulsive talkers, bores, and World War I generals accomplished at trench warfare, to be forever sniffing their own. But the intelligent and conservative among you are annoyed already for there is a tendency to my remarks which you detect with unease, you fear I lead the argument into the alp of the high immoral. I do; but perhaps my aim is to rescue morality.... We are drawn to shit because we are imperfect in our uses of the good. If all we eliminated was noxious, hopeless, used-up or never-intended, it would be a pervert or maniac who found the subject attractive. But not all of what we give away is useless.... Each cell in each existence labors like all life to make the most of what it is or can be, each cell is different, perhaps even so different as one of us from another. So perhaps we do not digest all that is good for us.... The dung of the brave is filled with riches for the fearful: precisely those subtleties, reservations, and cautions the courageous dislike are grace and wit for the coward; the offal of the fool has sweets to accelerate a genius -- a dull mind must reject those goods for fear the head would hemorrhage from unexpected and indisposbale enthusiasms.... But if excrement is the enforced marriage of Tragic Beauty and Filth, why then did God desert it, and leave our hole to the Devil, unless it is because God has hegemony over us only as we create each other. God owns the creation, but the Devil has power over all the waste -- how natural for him to lay siege where the body ends and the weak tragic air begins. Out of the asshole pour the riches of Satan -- these souls of nutrient, these lost cells spurned by the universe of the body they traversed, their being about to be cast into the lower existence of Chance.... Only Chance prospered in the Twentieth Century.... The progression was from man to merde, the Twentieth Century was a rush of all souls to search out shit, to kiss the Devil, to rescue a molecule from the brown of its extinction. For think: we began with the kiss sub cauda, the kiss to the hole of the cat. The cat -- that marriage of grace and cruelty, self-centered, alien, alone, what can the cat use in its food of tender cells, compassionate meats, philosophical greens? It cannot -- the drop of the cat is rich in royal and generous affections; one only has to absorb, and one will love with grace.

Bid us farewell, now, with a final kiss sub cauda.

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